Frye Art Museum Visit

One of my favorite parts of this project is visiting the Special Libraries; it was an inspired decision on Greg’s part to recommend it as part of the curriculum.  I never realized how much we could learn about our own libraries from (relatively) short visits to other libraries.  I have been impressed at how forthcoming each place is when discussing difficulties and short comings.  On our visit to the Frye Museum last Friday we learned the most from the things that had gone wrong over the years.  Cory Gooch, the Collections Manager/Registrar, and Ben Abraham were our tour guides.  It was interesting to get the juxtaposition insight from Cory who has worked with the collection for years as a supervisor, and Ben, who catalogs all the material in Library Thing and is determined to reorganize the collection so that staff can use and search for the books.

The library is beautiful and very well cared for.  The Frye has a benefit many of the libraries we have visited have not, which is that they can purchase material for the library and they were able to pay a professional to set it up.  Most of the collection is donations or are sent from museums around the country in a collaborative exchange of museum catalogs.  They are beautiful high quality art books that make up a well-rounded collection with an emphasis on 18th and 19th Century German Art, which is what the Founding Collection consists of.  The library was originally cataloged as part of a grant which allowed library and archive professionals to work together to create a list of everything that was in the Frye Archive and to catalog and label all the material using the Library of Congress Classification.

In this way the Frye and the Audubon are very similar.  They had an existing collection and then some enthusiastic people came and organized it and brought it up to date in keeping with library and archive standards.  Like the Frye the Audubon will not have those enthusiastic people (Greg and I) forever.  One of the most common down falls that occurs after a large project is completed is that there is no or little documentation on how to continue the project.  When the professional the Frye paid to catalog the material left consistency was inconsistent at best.  The difference between a book being listed as, “German art of the twentieth century,” or, “German Art of the Twentieth Century,” or, “GERMAN ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY,” was one of the differences Cory pointed out.  Books have also been cataloged and organized differently over the years.  Ben and Cory believe, and I agree with them, that with a fairly small collection LC Classification is unnecessary.  Especially since the majority of the material is 18th and 19th Century German Paintings most of the call numbers are the same, a whole wall of ND doesn’t do much too narrow ones search.  These things may seem niggling.  You might ask, why not just shelve them one way or another?  It is important to match your collection and its organization with your user and content.  You wouldn’t organize a university library in the book store model because no one would find anything.  Likewise you wouldn’t organize a shelf of board books by LC.  These decisions become gray when you are in special libraries.  Special Libraries = Special Problems.


  • If a unique situation comes up, or a decision needs to be made, make an informed decision, stick with it, and document it.
  • If you are going to change a process change it for everything, past and future.
  • It is important to cater to your audience.  Don’t pander to them but make sure your collection or the organization of it, serves them.
  • Document instructions and procedures in a clear way that gives little room for interpretation and ensure that future volunteers read and understand the instructions.  I would also add that you make it clear to future volunteers why everything is so specific.  Libraries frequently get volunteers who have not had that drive for consistency and accuracy instilled in them so it is important to explain the why behind the how.

Thank you to Cory and Ben for the wonderful tour, and if there are any MLIS Students or Professionals who are interested in dedicating themselves to the Frye Library cause please let Greg or myself know so we can put you in touch with Cory.


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